Marijuana has many healing properties. How best to unlock those healing properties is something that has been researched (as much as prohibition would allow) and debated for many years. If you have researched medical marijuana for even a short amount of time, chances are you have come across ‘Rick Simpson Oil,’ or RSO as it’s commonly referred to. RSO was made popular by, you guessed it, a guy named Rick Simpson. A lot of people say that he ‘invented’ the oil, but that’s not exactly true, although he definitely spread it to the masses more than anyone else.
Concentrated marijuana is not a new thing. Concentrated marijuana comes in many forms, with RSO being one of the most famous forms. When you learn how Rick Simpson makes his oil, you will see that it’s not exactly rocket science, and is something that people have been doing for a long time, just maybe not with the solvents that Rick Simpson uses, or not specifically with a rice cooker like Rick Simpson uses.
Concentrating things using solvents is not unique to the marijuana world. I’m friends with people that have backgrounds in agriculture. If you have ever consumed something concentrated, whether it be orange juice or something else, it likely was concentrated using some type of solvent. Most solvents are nasty things on their own, and when a lot of marijuana consumers hear that their marijuana concentrates are being produced using things like butane, or CO2, or isopropyl alcohol, or other things, consumers get alarmed, and understandably so.
What consumers have to realize, is that when marijuana concentrates are properly produced, the traces of solvents are so minuscule that they pose no risk to humans. The solvents are used to strip the marijuana of its cannabinoids and other desirables, at which point the raw marijuana is discarded, and the solvent/marijuana mixture is cooked and vacuumed to such an extent that virtually no solvent remains. I was told that the amount of solvent left in properly produced marijuana concentrates is several times lower than what is allowed in food.
What consumers really need to be worried about is things like heavy metals, pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, and other foreign nasty stuff that doesn’t get cooked and vacuumed off. If something was used on the plants or to feed the plants when the marijuana was being grown, it’s in the concentrates. And just as the cannabinoids are concentrated, so too are the heavy metals and other nasties. That’s where the real concern should be, but it’s something that hardly comes up because the marijuana industry is geared more towards testing for potency, along with some contaminates (but not heavy metals).
I will admit, the first time that I learned how Rick Simpson Oil was made, I was taken back by the types of solvents he uses. Naptha, benzine, and isopropyl alcohol is hardcore stuff. But then again I suppose so is butane, and whereas people eat RSO, people smoke dabs. I’m by no means a doctor, and in a perfect world everything would be solvent free, but from what I’m told by scientists and the world’s best concentrate makers, those types of solvents extract the best. I can virtually guarantee that there are people out there that disagree and feel that those solvents should never be used under any circumstances, and feel free to sound off in the comments as always, but that’s what I hear over and over from very reliable sources. I am not an industrial concentrate maker, or scientist, or doctor, so take it for what you will.
Lower in this article is a video that Rick Simpson recently posted of how he makes his RSO. Jeannie Herer posted it on her Facebook page, and whenever I see her post stuff I always take a look. In the video Rick Simpson uses isopropyl alcohol as the solvent. When I posted on Facebook that I was trying this method, people absolutely lost their minds that I was using isopropyl alcohol. The vast majority of people said to use a high proof grain alcohol such as Everclear, and nothing else. I still did the process because I had plenty of trim to work with, and was planning on making Everclear batches too for comparison purposes, but I got curious and decided to research further to see what information I could find.
Online there are tons of anecdotal arguments from both sides of the equation. Everyone is all fired up with most people typing in all caps and a lot of name calling is going on. But I wanted some sound scientific explanations. The best explanation I received was in an e-mail reply from a prominent, respected concentrate maker. The reply involved a comparison between the two types of solvents (isopropyl versus Everclear). Yes, isopropyl alc0hol is poisonous, but so too is Everclear. Both of them will kill you if enough is consumed. Whereas isopropyl alcohol is 99% pure alcohol, Everclear is 95%. The remainder in both is mostly water. The alcohol in both boils around the same temperature (171 to 173 F), but water boils at a much higher temperature (212 F). Failing to boil off the water creates a lot of issues, and in that regard, isopropyl alcohol is better.
But, to be fair, if both solvents are boiled off properly, there should be no water. The margin of error is just less with 1% versus 5%. But if there’s no water, there’s also no solvent, so the argument becomes moot at that point. According to Rick Simpson, and a lot of other credible people I’ve talked to, isopropyl alcohol extracts better than Everclear. That’s why people use it, and why Rick Simpson recommends it.
I made two batches of RSO using the same cannabis from the same harvested plant, one with isopropyl and one with Everclear. I’m sending both off to be tested before I do anything with them to see if they are fit for human consumption. We shall see what the testing labs have to say on the matter. Until then, below is the previously mentioned video. Do with the information whatever you see fit. If you have knowledge to add to this topic, by all means please put it in the comments so that others can benefit from your knowledge. The people that are taking RSO are not taking it for fun, they are taking it to try to heal themselves from horrible things such as cancer. If you have information that can help, please offer it up!
image via Cannabis Culture